By Steve Beideck
LINCOLN – There were some reflective moments before Sunday’s softball fall season opener for both Rhonda Revelle and Jordyn Bahl.
This was more than just a fall season game against in-state foe Nebraska-Omaha for Nebraska’s head coach and the two-time national champion at Oklahoma who transferred to her home state school less than four months ago.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have a moment today,” Revelle said. “I could very well understand if (Jordyn) did, too. Before it even started, it felt like, ‘This is kind of a big deal.’ It’s her first game in her home state wearing a Nebraska uniform.
“Even though we’ve been with each other every day, it was real today. That’s maybe what I feel. We had scrimmages, we’ve done that. So, if a coach at my age is feeling that, she very well could have, too.”
Bahl, the Papillion-La Vista graduate who was the 2021 National Gatorade Player of the Year, said she understood what Revelle was feeling because it was a similar experience for her.
“I did feel a little (bit of) jitters, especially early on,” Bahl said. “I think part of it is because it’s been anticipated for a while. Now it’s like you’re really here and you’re trying to soak it in, and at the same time be really super locked in.”
Once it became time to play the game, Bahl and her new teammates were ready to go. Bahl, along with several other players new to the Nebraska program, had their firsts – first hit, first pitch, first time on base – as a Husker.
Nebraska defeated Nebraska-Omaha 8-4 in the game played before a crowd at Bowlin Stadium of 1,082, a number for a fall game that would have ranked as the sixth-biggest audience to see an NU home game during the 2023 official spring season.
“You just felt it at the start,” Revelle said. “Because then the game gets familiar. This is softball.”
Bahl reached base four times, going 2 for 2 with a double and two runs scored. She also reached on an error in the first inning and a fielder’s choice in the fourth.
Four other Huskers – second baseman Katelyn Caneda, catcher Ava Bredwell, right fielder Alina Felix and left fielder Dakota Carter – also had two hits apiece.
It was a home run by Bredwell in the third inning that got the scoring started. Bahl led off with an infield single. She said that was her favorite plate appearance because, “Honestly, I love beating out ground balls.” She then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Caneda.
Bredwell then stepped up and launched her home run to left field with a blast that bounced off the bottom of the video scoreboard. The Mavericks tied the game 2-2 in the top of the fourth before the Huskers sent 10 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the frame.
The Huskers scored four runs, all with two outs, and took advantage of a pair of UNO errors while building a 6-2 lead. A two-RBI single by Caneda was the big hit that ignited Nebraska’s rally.
UNO got two of those runs back in the fifth before Nebraska scored its final two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Bahl’s double to left-center field scored Samantha Bland, and Carter came home on a single up the middle by Caneda.
“I thought what our team did a really good job of was whenever the other team scored, we would come back and score more, or the same amount,” Bahl said. “It’s just all about answering and responding. It was awesome the way we rallied and passed the bat.”
Bahl pitched five innings and earned the win. UNO scored four runs with two earned against her with four hits. She struck out four. While the lead-off hitter reached in each of Bahl’s five innings, she limited UNO to just 1 of 18 hitting with a runner on base.
Emmerson Cope relieved Bahl and pitched the final two innings allowing three hits but no runs and struck out one.
Revelle was pleased with the way Caneda bounced back from her first at-bat that ended with the sophomore from Cerritos, California, striking out while chasing a pitch high and outside of the strike zone.
“I was (telling myself) I need to move Jordy after she got on base,” Caneda said. “I think maybe I was too anxious. By the time of my second at-bat, I took a deep breath and then my third at-bat when I got a simple hit up the middle, it was just all about breathing.”
The Huskers finished the game with 12 hits, including a stellar performance from the bottom third of the order. Felix, Bland and
Carter combined to go 5 of 6 and reached base three other times on a pair of fielder’s choice plays and a UNO error.
“What I really liked was that we had seven of our hitters get hits,” Revelle said. “So, it was really spread out. And our leading hitter was in the dugout. We have an All-American in the dugout. She’s an All-American for a lot of reasons, but her bat is certainly a big part of that.”
That would be senior shortstop Billie Andrews, who is sitting out the fall season while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
When she returns for the 2024 season, Andrews likely will move back into her role as Nebraska’s leadoff hitter. That spot was filled Sunday by Bahl, who understands that role is a limited time offer.
“I told Jordy, I’m going to hit you leadoff today,” Revelle said. “But I wouldn’t guarantee that would happen in the spring. I think that’s Billie’s spot.”
Nebraska next will play a pair of games Oct. 7 at the Kansas City Sports Academy against Missouri-Kansas City and South Dakota State before returning to Lincoln for an Oct. 8 meeting with Creighton. That game is scheduled for a first pitch at 2 p.m. at Bowlin Stadium.
UNO 000 220 0 – 4 7 4
At Nebraska 002 420 x – 8 12 2
W-Jordyn Bahl. L-Kamryn Meyer. 2B-O, Olivia Aden; N, Bahl. HR-N, Ava Bredwell. A-1,082.